Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Sunday, 13 April 2008 12:26 UK

MSP to research assisted suicide

Margo MacDonald
Margo MacDonald says the terminally ill should have choices

Veteran MSP Margo MacDonald plans to research clinics abroad which allow those with terminal illnesses to end their own lives.

The 64-year-old, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, recently told fellow MSPs that she should be allowed to bring about her own death.

She is now calling for a public debate on assisted suicide.

Ms MacDonald, independent MSP for the Lothians, said: "I want to research the whole topic."

She said she had not investigated how assisted suicide abroad operates before and added: "I'm not exactly at death's door."

I want to find a way in which I can take the decision to end my life in case I'm unlucky enough to have the worst form of Parkinson's
Margo MacDonald

However, she said: "I feel a responsibility because I've spoken about the principle of the thing. I've got to get to know about the practicalities and I've got to hear all sorts of opinions."

Ms MacDonald said people contacted her after she spoke out in a Holyrood debate on choices for patients coming to the end of a terminal illness.

She said: "I've had hundreds of people get in touch with me and I'm not exaggerating when I say only a handful said they disagreed.

"There's a huge number of people, many of them like me, affected by this, so let's debate this thing properly."

In February's debate, Ms MacDonald told MSPs: "I want to find a way in which I can take the decision to end my life in case I'm unlucky enough to have the worst form of Parkinson's near the end of life."

Palliative care

Scottish law does not permit people to assist in taking a life and Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government has no plans to change that.

Ms MacDonald argued that situation meant people suffering from a terminal disease who wanted to end their own life had little alternative than going to a facility abroad.

She said: "People have no other option if they want to make sure they don't criminalise anyone in the UK, and nobody wants to do that. Nobody wants to put that burden on anybody."

Ms MacDonald stressed she supported palliative care, but added: "Hospices aren't anything like as widespread as I would want to seem them, and there is no doubt about it that palliative care varies from district to district.

"Also, in terms of a need to try to make sure you do exit life with dignity, and still feeling you have some control over your own life, palliative care is fine for some people but there are conditions that it doesn't suit."




SEE ALSO
MSP wants right to end own life
26 Mar 08 |  Scotland
MSPs urged to reject euthanasia
31 Jan 07 |  Scotland
Call to let patients die in peace
11 Nov 04 |  Scotland

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